Artist: Chely Wright
Personal nickname: Chels
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc — inform your music?
I don’t mean to sound like I’m too cool to acknowledge that books, films, and paintings affect me (of course they do), but I think the single biggest influence on the work I do comes from human interaction and my observations of it. I absorb communication (spoken and non-linguistic) between people — whether it’s firsthand or from the sidelines — in the ways that one might go to the Met to see their favorite Degas. I do think, at times, that the way people interact is a form of art, because the composition matters and because it requires context and begs for interpretation.
What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?
When I was just a little kid, I’d sit in front of stacks and piles of my parents’ vinyl record collection as my mom would curate the playlist of the day. Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris, Bobbie Gentry, Conway Twitty, Hank Williams Sr., Elvis, and The Beatles… those were some of the artists in heavy rotation in our household. I remember being four years old and all I wanted to do was listen to those records. I was learning to read at that time too and my mom would help me as I sounded out the words written in the liner notes. I recall saying to my mom, “I want to do this. I want make my own records.” To which she replied, “You can.” And in that moment I really believed that I could and that I would.
If you had to write a mission statement for your career, what would it be?
Mission Statement: Find joy in every part of the work. The music. The people. The solitude. The airports. The chaos. The struggle. The triumph. The songs. Find The Joy.
Which elements of nature do you spend the most time with and how do those impact your work?
I try to walk a lot wherever I am. I’ve always cherished the experience of putting my feet down on dirt, gravel, pavement, and stone in places where I’m pretty sure I’ll never walk again. There’s something profound about it for me. Like most folks, I do my best thinking on my walks. Usually, on these walks, I don’t think about melodies or lyrics, but rather, I think about characters. The characters I consider (mostly fictitious) have free reign of my imagination for 1-2 hours to share their monologues or dialogues with me. I remember being a kid on my paper route and doing the same thing. I don’t know why I enjoy it, but I do.
Since food and music go so well together, what is your dream pairing of a meal and a musician?
I’m not a big foodie and I’ve never answered questions about the intersection of food and art with any style or substance, to be honest. I can say this though– if you give me a night of Rodney Crowell and Joe Henry together on stage, I’d be pretty damn happy with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Photo credit: Matthew Rodgers